»RECORDS, DATES: »1974-1998

»QUANTITY:» 7.7 linear feet




The records (donor no. 603) were donated by Sally Stiles in 1999; and by Carol Steinmetz in 2008.


The »papers are open for research.


»Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to The University of Iowa. 


In Box 16


In Box 6.


Heather Stecklein, 2002; Lindsay Shannon, 2008Your name, year [filename]». [ArtistsInAction.doc]



            Artists in Action was incorporated in February of 1974 as an outlet to support the creative pursuits of area artists. That year, the group transformed a former tavern at 204 West Second Street in Muscatine into a gallery for the works of member artists.  In exchange for yearly dues--which paid for rent and utilities of the shop-- members were allotted display space in the gallery in which they exhibited works of art including paintings, sculpture, china, woodwork, prints, stained glass, macramé, and weaving. To ensure the quality and originality of work, the organization juried artists’ works to determine which were suitable for display. In addition, the group strictly enforced its rule that none of its works were reproductions of other artists’ works. The organization also limited the length of time works could be displayed.


            Members voluntarily staffed the shop for allotted time slots, and the business was open to the public every day in the morning and afternoon. For every sale, the artist received 80% of the sale price, and the remaining money went to the shop. An elected board of approximately ten people met each month to make decisions regarding the shop, including judging of new artists’ works, determining shop window displays, and organizing worker schedules.


            In addition to its shop, the group developed a number of community activities. In the mid-to-late 1970s, the group organized classes and craft demonstrations and the “Belle of the Bend Art Fair”, which was the main event of Muscatine’s “Great River Days”. Each August, the fair brought artists from throughout the Midwest to Muscatine, and over 100 artists participated each year.    By the 1990s, the group expanded into two subgroups: a writers’ society called “Writers on the Avenue” which published compilations of its members’ works, and “Tellers in Action,” a group of artists who told stories at community events and libraries.       


            Despite the group’s diversification, it was consistently plagued by financial difficulty. By the mid-1980s, the group concluded that many of its financial problems stemmed from its location. In 1987 the group moved into a building in the main district of Muscatine and enjoyed a brief increase in business. By the early 1990s, the shop’s monthly statements rarely showed a profit, and despite many attempts to continue operating, the group closed the shop in 1997. Following the settlement of its debts and assets, the group officially disbanded at its last board meeting, October 8, 1998.  Begin text here:»


Scope and Content Note


Begin text here:The Artists in Action» records date from 1974 »to 1998 and measure 7.5» linear feet.  The record»recordrs »are arranged in nine» series: Administrative, Activities, Board of Directors, Shop materials, Member works, Related organizations, Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Artifacts.»


            The Administrative series (1974-1998) contains the group’s articles of incorporation, its mission statements, and organization histories. The bulk of this series consists of the monthly newsletters from Artists in Action’s board of directors to its members. In addition, the series includes two folders of newspaper clippings reporting the group’s major events, including its opening, anniversaries, its move to a new building, and an incident in which a car crashed through the shop’s front window. Lists of member artists, newspaper articles describing their artistic pursuits, and artist questionnaires complete the series.


            The Activities series (1974-1997) consists primarily of materials from the group’s annual “Belle of the Bend Art Fair,” including posters, registration forms, and mailing lists. In addition, the series contains registration forms and publicity from classes and exhibits in which the member artists participated.


            The Board of Directors series (1974-1997) contains monthly minutes, budgets, correspondence between the board of directors and member artists or outside parties, and financial reports of shop sales by artist.


            The Shop Materials series (1975-1997) documents the daily operations of the Artists in Action store. In includes the store’s hours sign, display cards, guest books signed by customers, charge books, and layaway files. Finally, the series contains handwritten worker memos and journals in which shop workers described the day’s activities at the shop, including how good business was, any repairs or cleaning performed, and noteworthy incidents.


            The Member Works series (1976-1993) contains materials created by members. Nature and Nostalgia in Eastern Iowa, published in 1980, includes illustrations and narratives from a number of member artists; the artists’ original drawings are located in the Artifacts series. Also included are illustrated booklets, cards and coloring books designed by member artists and sold in the shop. Finally, the series a short story, “The Remake of Heaven”, by Writers on the Avenue member Aldeen Davis. (For further works by Artists in Action members, researchers should consult the Aldeen Davis papers, the National League of American Pen Women, Quad Cities records, and the Sally Stiles papers.)


            The Related Organizations series (1976-1997) includes materials from two groups that grew out of Artists in Action: Writers on the Avenue and Tellers in Action. Information about their meetings and compilations of work from the early 1990s documents the gatherings of writers on the Avenue, whose members gathered to help each other hone their writing skills. There is similar information and publicity about Tellers in Action, a subgroup of artists who enjoyed the art of storytelling. Also included in the series are newsletters and publicity pertaining to AIA’s involvement with the Greater Downtown Muscatine Association and the Muscatine County Arts Council.


The Photographs series (1974-1995) includes slides and photographs of demonstrations and displays from the AIA store; photographs of member artists and the classes that they taught in the 1970s and 1980s; and photographs from Belle of the Bend art fair activities and the organization’s anniversary parties.


            The Scrapbooks (1974-1997) document the each year’s activities with written commentary by the scrapbooks’ creators. Many of the scrapbooks in this series have been disbound from their original three-ring binders to minimize strain on the materials and placed into folders in their original order.


            The Artifacts series (1974-1994) includes the group’s original stamp used for shop materials and group newsletters, a worker name badge from the 1990s, and the organization’s framed first checks. The series also includes the original proofs for the group’s brochure, the original drawings for the book, Nature and Nostalgia in Eastern Iowa, and a framed photograph of a display of dolls from the shop. Finally, the series holds a “Shop Downtown Muscatine” poster mapping Muscatine businesses with member notations about which businesses had moved or closed since the poster was created.


Related Collections

Aldeen Davis papers

Sally Stiles papers

National League of American Pen Women, Quad Cities BranchBegin text here:»


Box no.   Description


Box 1     Administrative

Histories, undated

     Artist information, 1975-1997

Bylaws and articles of incorporation, 1979-1986

Chamber of commerce certificates, undated

Display committee, undated

Tax exemption correspondence. 1980

Flyers, 1976-1995

Handouts for Artists, 1982-1992 and undated

     Letters of Recommendation, 1975

Mailing lists, 1986-1998

     Member lists, 1974-1997 and undated

Membership notes, 1986-1993 and undated

     Mission statements, 1986 and undated

     National Endowment for the Arts grant application, 1975






Box 2


Newsletter notes, 1992-1994 and undated

     Newspaper clippings, 1974-1998 (2 folders)    



Arts roundtable, 1988

Belle of the Bend Art Fair




Mailing lists, 1984-1987

Poster, 1978 [shelved in map case]

Classes, 1974-1995 and undated

Community activities, 1974-1975 and undated

Exhibits, 1976-1992

Workers’ seminar, 1988


Board of directors

General, 1974-1997 and undated

Annual meeting reports, 1980-1997 and undated

Budgets, 1983-1996


Box 3




Financial materials


1994-1996 (2 folders)


Meeting minutes




Box 4

Meeting notes, 1977-1996 and undated

Officer lists, 1983-1990 and undated

Treasurer’s reports, 1990


Shop materials

General, 1992-1997 and undated

Artist sale files (2 folders)

Artist sale files (2 folders) [shelved in Box 18]

“Artists in Action Workshop and Gallery” brochure proofs, undated [oversize, shelved in map case]

Brochures, undated           

Calendars and schedules, 1975-1988 and undated

Charge books, 1995-1996

First checks, framed, 1974 [oversize: in box 17]

Guest books, 1978-1991


Box 5

Inventories, undated

Layaway records, 1978 1995-1996

Marketing information, undated

Shop relocation, 1985-1987 and undated

“Shop Downtown Muscatine” poster, 1994 [shelved in map case]

Worker instructions, undated

Worker journals



Worker memos, 1974-1995 and undated


Member works

Artists in Action

       Nature and Nostalgia of Eastern Iowa, 1980

       Items sold in shop, 1976-1993

Artists in Action Nature and Nostalgia in Eastern Iowa original book

materials, 1979-1980 [oversize: box 17]

Bieri, Judi, Pathways to Life, undated [illustrator]

Carlson, Bruce, A Field Guide to Iowa’s Critters, 1991

Muscatine Memories, 1976


Box 6

Davis, Aldeen, “The Remake of Heaven,” undated


Related organizations

Greater Downtown Muscatine Association, 1985-1996 and undated

Muscatine County Arts Council, 1976-1995

Tellers in Action, 1990-1993 and undated

Writers on the Avenue

General, 1992-1997

Compilations of work, 1991-1996



Slides, 1975

Photo album [disbound], 1993-1995 (2 folders)

Twentieth Anniversary photographs, 1994

Artists, undated

Classes, circa 1975

Shop, 1974-1995 and undated

Events, 1977-1998


Box 7




Box 8

1974 [disbound]    

1976 [disbound]


Box 9



Box 10



Box 11



Box 12

1980 [disbound](2 folders)

1981 [disbound] (2 folders)

1982 [disbound] (2 folders)


Box 13

1983 [disbound]

1984 [disbound] (2 folders)

1985 [disbound]

1986 [disbound]

1987-1989 [disbound] (folder 1)


Box 14

1987-1989 [disbound] (folders 2-3)

1990-1992 [disbound] (3 folders)


Box 15

1992 [disbound] (2 folders)

1992-1997 [disbound] (4 folders)


Box 16


Artists in Action shop stamp

Framed photograph of doll display in shop, ca 1975

Worker name badge, 1990s


Box 17


Artists in Action Nature and Nostalgia in Eastern Iowa original book

materials, 1979-1980

First checks, framed, 1974


[Map Drawer Folder]

 “Artists in Action Workshop and Gallery” brochure proofs, undated

Belle of the Bend Arts Fair poster, 1978

“Shop Downtown Muscatine” poster, 1994

         Box 18

 Shop materials (cont.)

Artist sale files (2 folders)